Ultimate guide to Australian F1 Grand Prix
ALBERT Park in Melbourne is once again the first stop on the Formula 1 calendar and with a new year comes new driver line-ups, cars and even the hope for something other than the silver parade of Mercedes dominance that has been a hallmark of the sport for the last half decade.
The biggest news for Australian fans of motorsport's flagship brand is of course that after five years at Red Bull Racing an underappreciated Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of the 2018 season to join French outfit Renault on a big-money move.
Whether that move will pay off on the track for the Australian remains to be seen but at a reported $49 million per year the cash should help ease any pain he feels on the track as he becomes the third-highest paid driver behind Lewis Hamilton ($74m) and former teammate Sebastian Vettel ($56m).
The good news for Ricciardo is Renault seemed to overachieve in pre-season testing as he and teammate Nico Hulkenberg were among the quicker drivers in the opening week.
While Ricciardo was noticeably slower than his teammate in the second week, Hulkenberg only had the Ferrari and Mercedes drivers in front of him.
It's good news for Ricciardo who will no doubt be keen to get one up on his former employer Red Bull after their boss Christian Horner accused the Australian of "running from a fight" with current No. 1 Max Verstappen.
Verstappen for his part has remained fairly quiet on the issue.
The Dutchman of course had his fair share of run-ins with the 29-year-old West Australian during their time at Red Bull, especially after what Ricciardo labelled a "s**t show" in Azerbaijan last year when Verstappen moved twice off his line as Ricciardo ploughed into him.
Something else that will be of interest in Melbourne is just how much of the gap Mercedes has made up on Ferrari since testing in Barcelona.
Overall the Silver Arrows struggled until the final day of testing when a new aerodynamic package allowed them to get close to Ferrari with Hamilton getting to within three hundredths of a second of Vettel and going faster than Charles Leclerc.
Vettel will be hoping the Mercedes has not improved much as he looks to defend his Australian GP title and get off to a flying start as he seeks his first Drivers' Championship since 2013, with Red Bull.
As for Ricciardo he is still seeking his first podium in his home country - with a best finish of fourth coming in 2016 and 2018.
For those who fancy a flutter on Formula 1, Vettel is the early favourite with the TAB at $2.90 to take out the race with Hamilton at $3.25 and Leclerc $3.50. Ricciardo is rated a $101 chance.
Of the current drivers in the field Vettel also has the most wins with three, while Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen have two each.
Gates open at 9.45am daily and close at 8pm.
Day 1 (Thursday, March 14): Australian GT championship, Porsche Carrera Cup
Day 2 (Friday, March 15): F1 first and second practice sessions, Supercars 400, Royal Australian Navy helicopter display, two-seater demonstration laps
Day 3 (Saturday, March 16): F1 third practice session (2pm) and qualifying session (5pm), Supercars 400 final race, Ferrari and Lamborghini parades, Royal Australian Air Force jet display
Day 4 (Sunday, March 17): F1 drivers' introduction (2.15pm) and drivers' parade (2.30pm), RAAF Fly Over leading into Grand Prix race (4.10pm)
TEAMS AND DRIVERS
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Valterri Bottas (FIN)
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel (GER) Charles Leclerc (MCO)
Red Bull Racing: Max Verstappen (NED) Pierre Gasly (FRA)
Renault: Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Nico Hulkenberg (GER)
McLaren: Carlos Sainz (ESP) Lando Norris (GBR)
Williams: Robert Kubica (POL) George Russell (GBR)
Haas: Romain Grosjean (FRA) Kevin Magnussen (DEN)
Toro Rosso: Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Alexander Albon (THA)
Sauber: Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA)
Racing Point: Sergio Perez (MEX) Lance Stroll (CAN)
KEY MOVEMENTS IN OFF SEASON
Ricciardo - Red Bull to Renault
Gasly - Toro Rosso to Red Bull
Leclerc - Sauber to Ferrari
Raikkonen - Ferrari to Sauber
Sainz - Renault to McLaren
Kubica - Returns to Williams after eight years away from F1
Ferrari - Replaced Maurizio Arrivabene as team principal with former technical boss Mattia Binotto.
RACE HONOUR ROLL - LAST DECADE
2018 - Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
2017 - Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari
2016 - Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2015 - Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2014 - Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
2013 - Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus
2012 - Jenson Button, McLaren
2011 - Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
2010 - Jenson Button, McLaren
2009 - Jenson Button, Brawn
HOW TO WATCH
THURSDAY: 1.20pm-3.40pm - Fox Sports 506
FRIDAY: 11.30pm-7pm: 10 Bold/Fox Sports 506
SATURDAY: 11am-7.30pm: Ten/TenHD/Fox Sports 506
SUNDAY: Midday-7.30pm: Ten/TenHD/Fox Sports 506
HOW MUCH FOR A TICKET?
Tickets start at $35 for adults and $18 for concessions on Thursday.
Adult prices increase to $45 on Friday then $85 on Saturday.
Sunday is $99 for adults, $68 for concessions and $199 for a family pass.
WHAT ELSE IS ON AT ALBERT PARK?
F1 Fan Zone, with fan forums and signing opportunities with F1 drivers
Melbourne Walk, where the drivers arrive every day
Heineken Village where music will be headlines by Hot Dub Time Machine and Sean Kingston
M-Lane with food trucks, street art and live music
Innovation and technology hub
A Grand Prix motor show featuring new automotive releases in the region